Is SoundCloud jumping the shark?

soundcloud jump shark

Oh no! Yet again, SoundCloud is in the news for the wrong reasons. We keep covering the SoundCloud soap opera, yet it never seems to end. Not content with making deals with big labels, setting them at odds with their users (some of whom have been with the site since the beginning), the music hosting site has rolled out new software to scan uploaded music for any possible copyright infringement.

In fact, you’ve probably already experienced the software, made by a company called Zefr, on Youtube. You’ve probably already seen this image glaring back at you, in your crate digging or music cruising moments.


Like YouTube already does, it’s highly likely SoundCloud will leverage the Zefr technology to monetise copyright controlled content. As The Verge reports, Soundcloud already have a system from Audible Magic to scan and remove ‘illegal’ content, which has perhaps been far too effective at driving away users.

DJWORX regular, JesC has already been hit with a copyright takedown… for a remix that used a legitimately bought stem pack of Depeche Mode’s 2006 single, Martyr.

DJWORX reader JesC got this takedown recently… for using a remix pack the band sold.

And this was his response:

Hey @Soundcloud, @depechemode sold a remix kit for Martyr back when it came out. Not disputing, deleting my #soundcloud tonight.

Jesse is definitely not the only one to suffer recently at the hands of SoundCloud’s overbearing policing in the last few days. FACT Magazine points out a few people that got hit, as well as their own mixes getting pulled.

The beginning of the end..?

As Mark mentioned in a message to me when we were talking about this:

“Soundcloud is either suicidal or is pivoting to be something else.”

I doubt we would ever see the figures, but it would be interesting to see how many users are no longer uploading, no longer signing up and whether new signups are just there to listen.

One thing’s for sure, SoundCloud’s PR has been absolutely terrible around all these happenings. A read of their blog quickly shows mainly posts that are either back-patting for their ‘On SoundCloud‘ partner programme, or fighting fires. There’s never any mention of all these backroom deals and new content ID systems that have been happening. We have to read about them on tech sites, and there’s never any positive discussion about it from SoundCloud. I can’t help feeling like they’re trying to sweep it under the rug.

If the company want to avoid haemorrhaging users, they need to start talking to the people that matter: the grass-roots DJs and producers creating the mass of content they’re benefiting financially from. If there’s real issues with DJ mixtapes and using other people’s music, either find a way round it, or stop marketing the site as an option.

Wouldn’t it be better to notify uploaders of infringements while they’re in the process of adding the mix? Maybe talk about who and why the takedown? Have a link to some way to contact the claimant. As it stands, the onus is on ‘guilty until proven innocent’ with users, and the big labels always seem to get special treatment. It’s a horrible way to treat your customers. You know, those that pay your bills.

Here’s a question for you:

Do you support the measures SoundCloud is putting in place?

It seems like the only people benefiting from this clamping down are the big labels, and major players on SoundCloud that can leverage their following to potentially monetise their content. It does make you think, though… what is SoundCloud’s strategy on this? The whole point of the site from the start was to become a vibrant place to show off and discover new music.

Now, if this technology from Zefr does allow for artists to make money from ads, much like YouTube’s preroll and pop ups, there might be some potential. But it all comes back to the same thing: SoundCloud need to start talking to the common people (do I get a takedown for mentioning a Pulp song?).  We get our information second hand, and end up second guessing.

Don’t worry though, there are plenty of alternatives, which I just so happened to check out in my music hosting group test a few weeks ago. If you’re worried about the direction SoundCloud is taking, read up and make an informed decision.